in New Delhi
Demonstrators shout slogans as they hold placards during a protest outside Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi Feb. 5. Hundreds of Christian protesters clashed with police in India's capital as they tried to press demands for better government protection amid concern about rising intolerance after a series of attacks on churches. "Five churches have been attacked in Delhi in two months and yet, not a single arrest has been made so far," Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi said Feb. 5. Meanwhile, the Indian government apologized to a senior church official for refusing visas to two Vatican officials traveling to address a meeting of the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of India.
Marriage debate poll
WASHINGTON — A recent Associated Press poll shows that while a plurality of Americans support the legalization of same-sex marriage, a majority believe that the religious liberty of those who object to such marriages, including owners of wedding-related businesses, should still be respected. The poll, which was conducted between Jan. 1 and Feb. 2, shows that 44 percent of Americans favor legalization of same-sex marriage, 39 percent oppose it and 15 percent "neither favor nor oppose" legalization of such marriages. Respondents also were asked this question: "In states where same-sex couples can be married legally, do you think that wedding-related businesses with religious objections should be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples, or not?" Fifty-seven percent of those polled said that "they should be allowed to refuse service," and only 39 percent said "no, they should not be allowed" to do so.
Vaccine: 'Common good'
WASHINGTON — A nationwide measles has fostered an ongoing debate about people's social obligation to have themselves and their children vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella and other diseases. Over the years, the Catholic Church has raised moral concerns about vaccines manufactured with human cell lines derived from voluntarily aborted fetuses. It has urged Catholics to push for the development of morally acceptable vaccines, but in the absence of such alternatives, has said Catholics must not reject immunizations and "sacrifice the common good of public health" or their children's well-being.
BALTIMORE — Allegations that Catholic Relief Services used sex education materials in Rwanda that violated church teaching on human sexuality are unfounded, the agency said. CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and develop agency, conducted an internal investigation concerning allegations raised by Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute charging that CRS used the publication, "My Changing Body: Puberty and Fertility Awareness for Young People," which he said promotes abortifacient contraception, masturbation and condom use. CRS said it found "no evidence that the objectionable passages Lepanto Institute emphasized in the Georgetown document called 'My Changing Body' were ever used in conjunction with CRS' activities in Rwanda."
Suicide bills advancing
WASHINGTON — Assisted suicide is legal in only four states currently, but several other jurisdictions are considering passing legislation to legalize the practice. If there is a saving grace, it is that no federal legislation to enshrine physician-assisted suicide in law is planned. Actually, two previous federal laws addressed assisted suicide, according to Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
Obama at prayer breakfast
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama decried the use of "twisted and distorted" faith as a wedge or a weapon in remarks Feb. 5 at the National Prayer Breakfast. The president also lauded the faith-based work typified by others on the program for the annual event, including the Sister of Mercy who co-founded Project HOME, a Philadelphia program that aims to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty; and Dr. Kent Brantly, the physician affiliated with Samaritan's Purse, who returned from Liberia last year with Ebola.
Pope addresses Congress
WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced Feb. 5 that Pope Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress Sept. 24. The pontiff's "historic visit" would make him the "first leader of the Holy See to address a joint meeting of Congress," Boehner said in a statement, adding that he was "truly grateful that Pope Francis has accepted our invitation."
Canadian survey secret
OTTAWA, Ontario — The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has invited dioceses to prepare for the worldwide Synod of Bishops with a set of questions on marriage and family life, but the conference said any questionnaire results will remain private. Msgr. Patrick Powers, conference general secretary, stressed that the questionnaire — slightly rearranged and reworded from a questionnaire put out by the Vatican — is not a survey or poll of Catholic opinion, but a way for bishops to share pastoral insights with Pope Francis and to help bishops plan for their dioceses.
Court on assisted suicide
OTTAWA, Ontario — Canadian church leaders and advocates for the disabled reacted with dismay when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down laws against physician-assisted suicide. In a unanimous decision Feb. 6, the court ruled that doctors may help adults with severe and incurable conditions to die, overturning a 1993 ban against assisted suicide.
Work remains risky
SAO PAULO — In the 10 years since U.S.-born Sister Dorothy Stang was killed by ranchers in the Amazon, the risks have not decreased, said one of the coordinators of the Brazilian bishops' Pastoral Land Commission. Antonio Canuto, one of the commission's coordinators, said although the 73-year-old nun's assassination in Anapu brought awareness of the plight of the peasants with whom she worked, this has not been enough to decrease impunity in the region. In the past 10 years, 106 people were assassinated due to land conflicts in Para state alone.
— Catholic News Service
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